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Matti E. Simonaho by Matti E. Simonaho
Or does it work against you?
Your company's website is often the first contact you have with a potential client. It gives the visitor - your possible client - a first impression of your company. A visually unattractive and disorganized business website will result in lost clients no matter how competent or well organized your company may actually be.
Of the 2000 or so websites Simonaho Designs browses every month, only five percent fall in the high-quality category. Poor layout and second-rate graphics are the most common website problems. Then there are the websites that have nice graphics and a good layout but lack a sensible navigational structure. Many websites of today uses Java (only) for the navigation. If the website is not optimized for non-Java browsers and a visitor with a Java-disabled browser surfs in, he/she does not find any links to follow.
Loading time
I belong to the growing group of people that does not mind waiting a minute or more for a great looking website to load. I am aware that some servers are slower than others and that pages load faster from a server close to me than from one on the other side of the world. For me, loading time is not the biggest factor when visiting a website. It's the look, the layout, the graphics and, last but not least, the content that really counts. What you have to do is ask yourself "Who am I trying to target with my website?".
What about links? Well, do I have to say that they must be linked correctly? Having a link to a products page that ends up at "ERROR 404 FILE NOT FOUND" is disastrous.
If you use graphic links, text links are still necessary to accomodate visitors with older web browsers. Many business websites that I have visited recently do not have text links at all. Another important consideration in using graphic links is to use width, height and alternative text attributes in your image source tags.
Using Graphics
Using graphics is one way to make a website more appealing, but overuse can make a website too slow to load. If your main target is worldwide companies with fast connections you can afford to use heavy graphics on your website. If, however, your website is aimed at the "regular browser" crowd using a 28kb modem or slower, keep your graphics to a minimum and as small in filesize(kb) as possible.

Having photos of 100ds products with descriptions on one page might be disastrous.  The page may load too slowly even for a local visitor. If your Web Designer is experienced enough, he/she should know how to minimize graphic filesize.
And speaking of graphics, there are a large number of business websites using backgrounds that make the text on the page almost impossible to read. It's like trying to read a newspaper through a sandwich paper.

Special effects
Using sounds, Java, ActiveX controls, background music and animations, or other special effects can liven up a website, but the more effects you add, the greater the liklihood of browser compatibility problems. Using too many special effects on a website can cause visitors to focus more on fancy effects than your products.

Go for an International Website!
If you have a small company, an attractive website might make a $1,000,000 difference in income. You have to understand that having a website on the Internet makes it available to people worldwide. You could lose a business deal with a big company on the other side of the world just because your website is unattractive. Depending on what you produce or sell, you could lose potential clients from all over the world.

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